Does My Child Really Need Dental Arch Expansion?

Arch expansion, or the expansion of the upper jaw, is a form of orthodontic treatment often used to correct a narrow upper arch or crowded upper teeth. Expanding the upper jaw is a potential first step in early orthodontics – if your child’s smile is demonstrating a constructed maxillary arch, he or she will need orthopedic forces to expand the maxilla. By expanding your child’s arch, or the circumference of his or her palate, his or her smile will have more space for permanent teeth to move and grow.

The best age for arch expansion patients is, ideally, as young as possible, but no earlier than the age of five. Upper jaw expansion is most successful when it is performed in children under the age of sixteen, because your child’s baby teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth between the ages of six and thirteen.

Benefits of Arch Expansion

  • Correction of Cross Bites – If your child’s upper teeth actually fit inside his or her lower teeth, he or she may have a cross bite. A cross bite can result in asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw, which can lead to facial asymmetry.
  • Reduction of Overcrowding – Once his or her upper arch is expanded, your child’s smile will have more room to accommodate the development of teeth.
  • Improvement in Breathing Abilities – Does your child experience difficulty breathing through his or her nose? This may be the issue! In fact, dental arch expansion can develop the airway and influence breathing in a number of positive ways, including lessening a patient’s risk of developing sleep apnea and treating existing sleeping and breathing disorders. Continuous mouth-breathing can result in unhealthy inhalation of unfiltered bacteria, dry mouth, and potential halitosis.

Don’t hesitate to look into improving your child’s airway and dental issues!

The Processes of Arch Expansion

  • Fixed Appliance – A fixed appliance, also referred to as a Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE), sits in the top of your child’s mouth at all times. It is traditionally attached to the molars with metal rings, but some appliances may be removable in certain cases. This appliance stretches the bone and cartilage of the palate, forcing it to expand. The appliance comes with a “key” that can be used to tighten the device, therefore, placing outward pressure on the two halves of your child’s upper jaw. Your dentist will recommend a set tightening schedule, and you can simply tighten your child’s RPE in the comfort of your own home on a daily basis. Slowly but surely, your child’s upper jaw will expand.
  • Removable Appliances – Similar to a fixed appliance, removable appliances use slow, gentle pressures to mold your child’s arch form, moving teeth and allowing new bone to grow. Some options for removable appliances include OcclusoGuards, positioners, Bionators, Myobrase, Schwartz plates, and sagittal appliances.

FAQs

  • Does it hurt?
    • There may be some initial discomfort once the application is placed, but typically, no. Patients report a feeling of pressure on the teeth, roof of the mouth, behind the nose, and even between the eyes, but no pain. This pressure fades away within minutes of adjusting the application.
  • How can I help my child through the process?
    • To make the first couple of days more comfortable for your child, you may want to find some fun foods that do not require a ton of chewing. This can include yogurt, pudding, mashed potatoes, ice cream, etc. A day or two after the device is placed, eating should feel normal again. Because food can be easily trapped in the device, be sure to encourage and monitor your child’s oral hygiene regimen. Always make sure your child’s application is clean. Guide your child to stay away from sticky foods, like jelly beans or caramel.
  • How long does my child have to wear the device?  
    • An average timeframe for arch expansion is 6-9 months.
  • How is the device fastened to my child’s mouth?
    • Expanders are typically glued or bonded to your child’s teeth. There are removable expanders, however, fixed ones have the advantage of never being lost or forgotten.
  • Is the device noticeable?
    • Outwardly, no. When the device is initially placed, your child may produce more saliva and have a harder time speaking and eating than usual. After a few days, these symptoms should subside.

Your child’s smile depends on his or her “big kid teeth” fitting into a little mouth! By aligning the upper and lower jaws to meet properly, your child’s arch will have plenty of room for tooth growth.

About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at www.suwaneedental.com. Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *